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Timeless appeal: Shinola’s Detroit-made Runwell Automatic watch ticks atop original TWA terminal blueprints from architect Eero Saarinen’s Michigan-based firm.
TWA Hotel Shinola

Right on Time

Nonstop from Detroit to JFK! Top watchmaker Shinola will land soon at the TWA Hotel.

A partnership made in the Motor City! Shinola — known for its handcrafted luxury watches — will debut a new outpost in the landmark 1962 former Trans World Airlines terminal designed by architect Eero Saarinen.

 TWA Hotel On Time
TWA prided itself on its punctuality as this 1958 ad attests.

The store will feature a custom watch bar — shoppers can choose from a variety of dials and straps and have a personalized timepiece built in the store. The brand will also offer an assortment of its premium leather handbags, wallets and journals, as well as audio equipment including speakers and turntables. A monogramming station will emboss initials and names on journals and leather goods free of charge.

 TWA Hotel Shinola
Just like old times: Shinola’s Runwell Automatic watch (left) and Runwell Chrono watch with Saarinen’s blueprints.

Shinola — which takes its name from an iconic 1920s shoe polish brand — prides itself on crafting modern goods that are built to last. The eight-year-old company operates an in-house watch and leather factory at its Detroit headquarters, where a team of artisans assembles between 500 and 700 watches per day. (More than 30 people participate in the creation of each ticker!)

 TWA Hotel Florence Knoll and Eero Saarinen
Florence Knoll and Eero Saarinen circa 1960; courtesy of Knoll Archives.

It’s not the first time Detroit-bred talent has landed at JFK: The former TWA terminal has a strong connection to the Midwest city. Born in Finland, Saarinen grew up in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills, where his father, Eliel, presided over the famed Cranbrook Academy of Art. The younger Saarinen went on to teach at Cranbrook — now recognized as the cradle of midcentury modernism — where he met future collaborators Florence Knoll and Charles and Ray Eames.

 TWA Hotel Shinola
Shoppers can customize a watch inside the Shinola location at the TWA Hotel.

Indeed, the 1940s and 50s marked a magical time for the Motor City, as many of the world’s top designers flocked there to do work for the automobile industry. (Parisian industrial designer Raymond Loewy — who dreamt up TWA’s 1959 twin globe logo and outfitted the terminal’s Paris Café and Lisbon Lounge — clocked time in Detroit designing cars for Studebaker.)

 TWA Hotel Shinola
Shinola’s premium leather goods and watches will be available at the TWA Hotel location.

In 1950, Saarinen opened his namesake architecture firm in Bloomfield Hills, which employed Kevin Roche and César Pelli, two architects crucial to the design of the TWA Flight Center. Charles Eames and Alexander Girard were known to drop by the office frequently and offer feedback.

 TWA Hotel Shinola

“We are amazed at the level of research, design and attention to detail that has gone into the development of the TWA Hotel,” says Tom Kartsotis, the founder of Shinola. “We have been watching this project from the sideline for a while now and couldn’t have been more thrilled to have our brand included.”

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